High-quality ultrawide, zoom lenses don’t usually come cheap. In this regard, Canon has produced the high-end Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens for those wanting the best quality at the wide end of the spectrum. As usual, these types of high-end lenses from Canon cost a pretty penny but are also the best in quality. With that in mind, we will check out how this lens performs and if it can match some of the competitors.
Firstly, starting with the focal length at 11mm means the only lenses wider are fisheye lenses. That’s about as wide as you can get, with the widest previously being Canon’s EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens.
The 11mm focal length results in a 126° angle of view. Very wide, but at this width can also come inherent problems like barrel distortion which isn’t something you need, especially when capturing buildings and architecture. Another point, this is the world’s widest ultrawide lens, which promises to be sharp and straight throughout its range.
As for the build of the lens, everything is constructed to Canon’s L-series standards. Rocksolid and built to last. This you can tell by its hefty weight of 1180g. Inside the lens are 16 elements in 11 groups, four of which are aspherical, Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and Super UD lens elements, with nine diaphragm blades.
There are also three different kinds of lens coatings to guard against flare. The aperture range goes from f/4-f/22 and features a built-in lens hood – a good idea for that bulbous front element.
The usual Canon lens layout is employed here with a thin manual override focus ring, distance scale, auto to manual focus switch, and a zoom ring on the lens barrel. The ring-type USM is also the usual silent and fast version which we come to expect from Canon.
This lens is aimed at the full-frame sensor market. On a crop sensor, the focal length ends up being 17.6-38.4mm, which means there are cheaper alternatives out there.
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM in Use
If you’ve ever played with a fisheye lens, the same usage applies here. The ability to get very close to a subject and still be in focus, while capturing an almost 180° view. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens works almost the same, getting you very close to a subject and also producing sharp images throughout the range. Amazingly, this lens is very sharp in the corners, even when wide-open at f/4 and 11mm.
The f/4 aperture isn’t a big problem either. For this quality of lens, you may expect f/2.8 for gathering more light and better bokeh, but for the main applications of this lens, like architecture, background blur isn’t really important. You have to get close to a subject to blur out the background. Bokeh is there, but this is a lens where sharp depth of field is far more fun to produce.
One area where an ultra wide-angle zoom can fall down is with distortion, especially at the edges. At 11mm and 12mm there is a moderate amount of distortion, but amazingly only about the same as other wide-angle zooms. From 14mm upwards, the distortion is acceptable and can be corrected afterward with software. Light falloff is slightly visible when wide-open, but everything is cured by f/5.6.
For a wide-angle lens, you’d expect some form of flaring and ghosting. The lens does a very good job of keeping these elements in check, but if you shoot with the sun directly facing you or to the side, you are going to get small bits of flaring. Stopping down quite a bit can produce nice sun stars and cut down the flaring aspect, but you can always expect some in very sunny conditions.
How Does the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Compare?
This lens is a bit like eating high-quality chocolate. Once you’ve tasted the good stuff, everything from then on is never as good. This lens is wider than the rest, sharper, and has very little artifacts, but you may not want to spend this much on a wide-angle lens or have other reasons for an alternative.
There is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM which is a very sharp lens and also boasts image stabilization. There’s also the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art lens which is in nowhere the same league as the Canon, but it is a cheap alternative.
|Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM||Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM|
|Elements||16 elements in 11 groups||16 elements in 12 groups|
|Blades||9 curved||9 curved|
There are not that many lenses on the market which you can thoroughly say this is the best in its class. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is super sharp even when wide open at 11mm and is the widest zoom out there. It gives all the benefits of a fisheye lens without the distortion and can produce some fantastic, exaggerated depth of field images.
The lens may seem initially expensive, but considering the quality and the cost of some wide-angle primes, the price is the least important factor. As a hobbyist lens, maybe it is pricey, but for anybody who needs a wide-angle zoom on a regular basis, this lens is a definite no-brainer. As it goes so wide without distortion, you’re also going to get a more unique look than anybody else. In other words, if you have the money to spend, definitely get one of these.
Possible outlets for this type of one’s would-be real estate, exaggerated depth of field images, nature and landscapes.